Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor
It could have been a lot worse. Not as bad as The Da Vinci Code. Do these really sound like hallmarks of praise? For a Dan Brown adaptation, maybe they do. Robert Langdon (Hanks) is back, sporting shorter hair (phew) and speedoes (eeww), all set to decipher another series of improbable clues.
This time, the Vatican is in danger of being blown to high heavens – a bomb, a particle of anti-matter, has been stolen from CERN, and planted somewhere beneath Rome. And so the professor of Symbology (and apparently art history and also theology) is sent for. Not by the Pope, you understand. He’s dead. The Conclave are all busy voting for his successor, whilst an ancient society, The Illuminati, kills off kidnapped Cardinals every hour until midnight.
It’s the Camerlengo who calls in Langdon, the temporary caretaker of the Papacy, the Vatican supply teacher – otherwise known as Ewan McGregor. “What’s he doing in this film?” you may ask. Swanning around hallowed corridors, black cassocks billowing, the Catholic Church’s Darth Vader is responsible for one thing: the worst Irish accent in movie history. He’s also on hand to provide exposition. And pilot helicopters – yes, in the world of Dan Brown, the Pope can fly.
But no-one can match Robert’s PhD in talking at people, especially now he’s learnt a new trick: walking and talking at the same time. And so Robert runs around Rome, from one statue to the next, constantly lecturing his sidekick, physicist Vittoria (Ayelet Zurer). Devoid of his claustrophobia, romance, or any vital signs at all, Robert really is a bland hero. Unless being a know-it-all counts towards character. He doesn't even have a hat.
From gaps in walls to false floor tiles, Robert pulls out his usual party tricks, solving things that have somehow gone unsolved for 400 years. A secret passage to the Vatican, leading to a giant door, which is locked from the other side with an ornate gold key? I bet that was inconspicuous.
Fortunately for us, David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman have learnt their lesson from The Da Vinci Code: here, Brown’s book is neatly abridged, no longer treated as sacred text. It’s true that no one has an actual conversation (the dialogue is all regurgitated back story) but the pacing is far smoother. 24-style titles really don’t help, though: “7.34PM. Downstairs.” They run up some stairs. “7.35PM. Upstairs.” Howard clearly can’t get his direction quite right, but the nonsense is still fairly nippy stuff.
The bollocks builds up to a hilarious climax in St Peter’s Square, involving the scientific bomb (which, by the way, is powered by an AA battery). But even this ludicrous event doesn’t discourage them from unveiling their terrible twist, which was obvious from the beginning of the trailer.
It could have been a lot worse. In fact, at times it’s quite enjoyable. Mea culpa.